The Mahabharata Home
"Yudhishthira said, 'Thou hast told me, O regenerate one, what the end is of unrighteousness or sin. I desire now to hear, O foremost of speakers, of what the end is of Righteousness. Having committed diverse acts of sin, by what acts of people succeed in attaining to an auspicious end in this world? By what acts also do people attain to an auspicious end in heaven?'
"Vrihaspati said, 'By committing sinful acts with perverted mind, one yields to the sway of unrighteousness and as a consequence goeth to hell. That man who, having perpetrated sinful acts through stupefaction of mind, feels the pangs of repentance and sets his heart on contemplation (of the deity), has not to endure the consequences of his sins. One becomes freed from one's sins in proportion as one repents for them. If one having committed a sin, O king, proclaims it in the presence of Brahmanas conversant with duties, one becomes quickly cleansed from the obloquy arising from one's sin. Accordingly as one becomes cleansed therefrom fully or otherwise, like a snake freed from his diseased slough. By making, with a concentrated mind, gifts of diverse kinds unto a Brahmana, and concentrating the mind (on the deity), one attains to an auspicious end. I shall now tell thee what those gifts are, O Yudhisthira, by making which a person, even if guilty of having committed sinful acts, may become endued with merit. Of all kinds of gifts, that of food is regarded as the best. One desirous of attaining to merit should, with a sincere heart, make gifts of food. Food is the life-breath of men. From it all creatures are born. All the worlds of living creatures are established upon food. Hence food is applauded. The deities, Rishis, Pitris, and men, all praise food. King Rantideva, in days of old, proceeded to Heaven by making gifts of food. Food that is good and that has been acquired lawfully, should be given, with a cheerful heart, unto such Brahmanas as are
possessed of Vedic lore. That man has never to take birth in an intermediate order, whose food, given with a cheerful heart is taken by a thousand Brahmanas. A person, O chief of men, by feeding ten thousand Brahmanas, becomes cleansed of the piety and devoted to Yoga practices. A Brahmana conversant with the Vedas, by giving away food acquired by him as alms, unto a Brahmana devoted to the study of the Vedas, succeeds in attaining to happiness here. That Kshatriya who, without taking anything that belongs to a Brahmana, protects his subjects lawfully, and makes gifts of food, obtained by the exercise of his strength, unto Brahmanas foremost in Vedic knowledge, with concentrated heart, succeeds by such conduct, O thou of righteous soul, in cleansing himself, O son of Pandu, of all his sinful acts. That Vaisya who divides the produce of his fields into six equal shares and makes a gift of one of those shares unto Brahmanas, succeeds by such conduct in cleansing himself from every sin. That Sudra who, earning food by hard labour and at the risk of life itself, makes a gift of it to Brahmanas, becomes cleansed from every sin. That man who, by putting forth his physical strength, earns food without doing any act of injury to any creature, and makes gift of it unto Brahmanas succeeds in avoiding all calamities. A person by cheerfully making gifts of food acquired by lawful means unto Brahmanas pre-eminent for Vedic lore, becomes cleansed of all his sins. By treading in the path of the righteous one becomes freed from all sins. A person by making gifts of such food as is productive of great energy, becomes himself possessed of great energy. The path made by charitable persons is always trod by those that are endued with wisdom. They that make gifts of food are regarded as givers of life. The merit they acquire by such gifts is eternal. Hence, a person should, under all circumstances, seek to earn food by lawful means, and having earned to make always gifts of it unto deserving men. Food is the great refuge of the world of living creatures. By making gifts of food, one has never to go to hell. Hence, one should always make gifts of food, having earned it by lawful means. The householder should always seek to eat after having made a gift of food unto a Brahmana. Every man should make the day fruitful by making gifts of food. 1 A person by feeding, O king, a thousand Brahmanas all of whom are conversant with duties and the scriptures and the sacred histories, has not to go to Hell and to return to this world for undergoing rebirths. Endued with the fruition of every wish, he enjoys great felicity hereafter. Possessed of such merit, he sports in happiness, freed from every anxiety, possessed of beauty of form and great fame and endued with wealth. I have thus told thee all about the high merit of gifts of food. Even this is the root of all righteousness and merit, as also of all gifts, O Bharata!'"
234:1 That day is sterile or lost in which no gift is made of food.
Next: Section CXIII